Lisa Bloom, the attorney for a former Fox News guest holding a press conference Monday, ripped the network’s handling of sexual harassment lawsuits against top-rated primetime host Bill O’Reilly and called for an independent investigation.
“How many women have to come forward?” Bloom, who has also served as an NBC News legal analyst, asked Sunday on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.” “How many millions of dollars have to get paid before Fox News takes sexual harassment seriously?”
“In my opinion, this network is the Bill Cosby of corporate America,” she continued, in reference to the dozens of women who have accused the famous comedian of sexual assault. “Women over and over again are driven out.”
Bloom’s comments followed a bombshell New York Times investigation published Saturday that revealed payments of about $13 million to five women accusing the primetime star of sexual harassment, inappropriate behavior, or verbal abuse. One of the five suits, involving former producer Andrea Mackris, made headlines in 2004. Another suit, involving Fox News employee Juliet Huddy was only reported in January. The other three had not been previously reported.
A sixth woman, Dr. Wendy Walsh, told the Times that she rebuffed O’Reilly’s advances and he later didn’t follow through on an offer to make her a network contributor. In a release, Bloom said Walsh will speak out at a press conference Monday in Los Angeles and they “will reveal their new demands to the network.”
The revelations about O’Reilly only shed more light on the toxic culture inside Fox News.
Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, who built the network with Rupert Murdoch in 1996 and ran it for two decades, resigned in July following a sexual harassment lawsuit from former Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson and amid widespread allegations from women inside the network, including former primetime host Megyn Kelly and many others throughout the executive’s five decades in media and politics. Former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros is also suing Ailes and top executives at Fox News, which she compared to a “Playboy Mansion-Like Cult.”
Federal investigators are currently looking into whether parent company 21st Century Fox didn’t properly notify investors about payments to Ailes’s accusers and other business practices.
While Fox News recently posted its highest quarterly ratings ever, and enjoys the best access to President Donald Trump, the post-Ailes network continues to be embroiled in scandals related to allegations of employee mistreatment.
Last month, 21st Century Fox reached a settlement with former Fox News contributor Tamara Holder after she accused former network Fox executive Francisco Cortes of sexual assault. And last week, two black employees, Tichaona Brown and Tabrese Wright, filed a racial discrimination suit against longtime comptroller Judith Slater, Fox News, and 21st Century Fox. The network had fired Slater just days earlier for what it dubbed “abhorrent behavior.”
O’Reilly, however, has remained seemingly untouchable at Fox News despite the headline-grabbing allegations of sexual harassment over a decade ago and the latest revelations. That’s presumably because “The O’Reilly Factor” draws nearly 4 million viewers nightly, the most in cable news, and his show brought in more than $446 million in advertising revenue from 2014 to 2016, according to the Times.
“Just like other prominent and controversial people, I’m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity,” O’Reilly said in a statement on his website. “In my more than 20 years at Fox News Channel, no one has ever filed a complaint about me with the Human Resources Department, even on the anonymous hotline.”
In a statement to HuffPost, 21st Century Fox ― the Murdoch-family owned parent company of Fox News ― noted that no current or former network employee used the company’s hotline “to raise a concern about Bill O’Reilly, even anonymously.” The company said it had “looked into these matters over the last few months and discussed them with Mr. O’Reilly.
“While he denies the merits of these claims, Mr. O’Reilly has resolved those he regarded as his personal responsibility,” the statement continued. “Mr. O’Reilly is fully committed to supporting our efforts to improve the environment for all our employees at Fox News.”
The Wall Street Journal, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., reported Saturday that O’Reilly’s contract, originally set to expire at the end of this year, was recently renewed.
Correction: This article previously described Wright and Brown as no longer with Fox News. Wright is still with the company. And Fox told The Times last week that Brown remains employed, though the suit contended she had been fired.